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TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE(director/writer: Alex Gibney; cinematographer: Maryse Alberti/Greg Andracke; editor: Sloane Klevin; music: Ivor Guest/Robert Logan; cast: Alex Gibney (Narrator); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Mr. Gibney/Eva Orner/Susannah Shipman; ThinkFilm; 2007)
“The film should be applauded for being so thoroughly assembled and well-researched.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Alex Gibney’s (“Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”) essential documentary offers the facts against the United States’s War on Terror policy by filming an intense in-depth look at its torture practices in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. For its starting point it zeroes in on an innocent 22-year-old Afghanistan taxi driver, Dilawar, who after a rocket attack was picked up by Afghan brigands working for America and was later tortured during his American interrogation (deprived of sleep; suspended from a grated ceiling by his wrists; kicked and kneed in the legs until he was too weak to stand) and died in a prison at Bagram Air Base in 2002 (a former Soviet base). His torturous death, during his five days detained in prison without being charged, is how the title came about. The inhuman interrogation techniques used in Afghanistan prove to be the norm, and the filmmaker shows they have been also used in such other infamous hot spots as Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo.

Gibney’s study on America’s torture policy is all about its abuse of power and how America has lost the moral high ground in the world under the Bush administration through their callous disregard for human rights. The filmmaker opens up the closed doors that have hid Bush’s dirty secrets by interviewing the torture draftsman himself, John Yoo, five of the haunted American soldier guards charged with Dilawar’s death, ex-prisoners, lawyers, veteran FBI men, civil servants, professors and reporters involved in covering these sites and uncovers through effective use of not seen before still images—from autopsy tables to makeshift holding cells—that the administration is systematically committing war crimes while no one is being held accountable.

The film should be applauded for being so thoroughly assembled and well-researched. The only disheartening thing is that it has not led to further outrage in America or even further debate or even a poll showing that most Americans care that such policies are wrong, as it seems to be preaching only to the choir. If the country’s leaders, media and voters can’t respond in kind to these un-American acts then we are indeed in deep trouble as a democracy and have lost our grip on being the world’s best hope. Gibney’s final dig at our torture policy, is that it doesn’t work and only serves as a political gesture to let the public think America is on the ball in its War on Terror.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”